Of course Hong Kong be­longs in the An­glo­sphere

The Sunday Telegraph - - Sunday Comment -

Iwrote in th­ese pages last week about the idea of an An­glo­sphere free trade nexus – an as­so­ci­a­tion of com­mon law, English-speak­ing states that recog­nise each other’s goods, ser­vices and pro­fes­sional qual­i­fi­ca­tions. I have been pur­su­ing the scheme with politi­cians and think tanks over­seas for the past year.

Which coun­tries might ini­tially qual­ify? Those with com­pa­ra­ble lev­els of in­come and in­ter­op­er­a­ble busi­ness norms: Bri­tain, the US, Canada, Sin­ga­pore, Aus­tralia, New Zealand and Hong Kong – plus pos­si­bly Is­rael, which has the same com­mon-law sys­tem and com­mer­cial rules as the oth­ers. The con­tro­ver­sial in­clu­sion is Hong Kong, where I spent much of this week. Some fret that an­other crack­down in main­land China might push mil­lions of Hong Kongers to Lon­don and Van­cou­ver. Oth­ers see the ter­ri­tory as a Tro­jan horse for Bei­jing’s dodgy in­dus­trial es­pi­onage.

Nei­ther ob­jec­tion though has any direct bear­ing on Hong Kong’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in an An­glo­sphere com­mer­cial net­work. Our pro­posed trade ar­range­ment pro­vides for free­dom of labour, not the right to set­tle per­ma­nently in each other’s coun­tries. In any case, around half the 7.4mil­lion Hong Kongers al­ready have that right, hold­ing sec­ond pass­ports from other An­glo­sphere states.

As for Chi­nese cyber at­tacks, they hap­pen to­day in coun­tries that have no trade deals with Bei­jing. If any­thing, us­ing Hong Kong to pull China deeper into a rules-based as­so­ci­a­tion with the English-speak­ing democ­ra­cies is a bonus. One of the sub­tleties of that ter­ri­tory’s pol­i­tics that goes largely un­re­marked in the West is that the keen­est sup­port­ers of its eco­nomic model – low taxes, light reg­u­la­tion, zero tar­iffs – tend to be in the par­ties that are la­belled “proBei­jing” rather than “pro-democ­racy”. This was the fac­tion that cheered when the Chi­nese for­eign min­is­ter of­fered Jeremy Hunt a com­pre­hen­sive bi­lat­eral free trade agree­ment in July, see­ing such a deal as likely to en­cour­age the stalled process of mar­ket re­forms in Bei­jing.

Ul­ti­mately, though, the case for in­clud­ing Hong Kong is that nowhere else on earth so per­fectly em­bod­ies the power of free trade. In 1960, Hong Kong was a poor, re­source-free, muggy is­land. To­day, it is one of the wealth­i­est places on the planet. What brought that miracle about? Uni­lat­eral trade lib­er­al­i­sa­tion. Hong Kongers un­der­stood that the best way to get rich was to re­move the ob­sta­cles be­tween busi­nesses and their cus­tomers, and that this re­moval should not be con­tin­gent on what other coun­tries did.

Who made it hap­pen? An unas­sum­ing Scot­tish civil ser­vant called John Cow­perth­waite, who ran the ter­ri­tory’s econ­omy in the Six­ties on the prin­ci­ples ad­um­brated by his coun­try­man Adam Smith. His suc­cess di­rectly in­spired Sin­ga­pore’s Lee Kuan Yew, who wrote of the need to “Hong Kongise” his home­land, com­bin­ing Chi­nese en­ter­prise with Bri­tish le­gal norms. Those two city states are now gleam­ing ex­am­ples of what open mar­kets can achieve. It’s time for Bri­tain to repa­tri­ate its revo­lu­tion.

Prince Charles says he is in­spired by the most fa­mous Prince of Wales of all – the fu­ture Henry V. For hun­dreds of years, ap­pre­cia­tive au­di­ences have watched that young scape­grace put aside his louche friends and grow into the em­bod­i­ment of a sol­dier-king.

We can only mar­vel at the power of Shake­speare’s cre­ative ge­nius. The his­tor­i­cal Prince Hal was, as far as we can make out, rather a pi­ous, se­ri­ous young man. But that flesh-and-blood fig­ure is, for all prac­ti­cal pur­poses, im­mea­sur­ably less “real” than the ruth­less war­rior of the Hen­riad, who thinks noth­ing of boss­ing God about in his prayers; whose hard­ness to­ward his for­mer com­pan­ions makes our blood run cold; whom an awe-struck WB Yeats found “as re­morse­less and undis­tin­guished as some nat­u­ral force”.

We might struggle to pic­ture the cur­rent Prince of Wales taking sav­age plea­sure in bat­tle, or­der­ing the ex­e­cu­tion of pris­on­ers, in­spir­ing his troops with “a lit­tle touch of Char­lie in the night”. But the essence of Prince Hal’s nar­ra­tive is up­lift­ing, apt and univer­sal: we can all put aside our for­mer selves and rise, when nec­es­sary, to an oc­ca­sion. This story shall the good man teach his son. FOL­LOW Daniel Han­nan on Twit­ter @DanielJHan­nan; at tele­graph.co.uk/opin­ion

A tra­di­tional Chi­nese junk and a mod­ern con­tainer ship in Hong Kong: the for­mer colony has shown the world the power of free trade

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